Rachel Polson, a partner at accounting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, is seeking to rev up participation and membership as the new board chairwoman of the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA).
Polson, Baker Tilly's software and technology practice leader, said a particular concern is attracting members to MNCPA's Young Professionals Group, for those with less than 10 years as a CPA, and younger people in accounting. MNCPA has some 9,000 members.
"There are a lot of committees where they can give back and challenge themselves," Polson said. "That's one part where they would feel valued."
Acknowledging the long hours that busy tax seasons mean for public and corporate accountants, Polson issued a call for work-life balance in an article she wrote for the society's magazine.
An avid snowmobiler, Polson is pictured on the publication's cover snowmobiling down a wooded trail, enjoying a sport she pursues with her husband and their sons.
Polson previously cofounded Baker Tilly's Growth and Retention of Women (GROW) program, which she said has helped develop flexible working schedules for women and men and promoted working remotely.
"We're trying to get people to feel empowered that it is important to have a life outside the office," Polson said.
Q: What level of activity are you seeing in your software and technology practice?
A: [Private-equity firms] are putting a lot of money into technology and software companies whether it's to build out a portfolio or adding on ancillary services. I work with clients from the pre-revenue state to billions of dollars of revenue. They're acquiring all the time or they're about to sell so it's active, which makes it more fun because we're able to help them whether they're on the sell side or about to buy a company. We can talk them through the pros and cons whether it's on the tax or the accounting side and help them structure the transactions. Most of them are doing leveraged deals so there's some connection with a bank. So they'll need an audit, which gives me something to do.
Q: What's your motivation for seeking leadership positions in the company and the profession?
A: I get excited about helping others. I have this business-savvy knowledge in my head, so how can I share that with other people to help them be better and encourage people to reach their potential, and being there as a sounding board, too? The part I enjoy is when the clients call and say they're struggling with something and how do they figure it out. I want to have that dialogue with them to help them. How can we come up with what the right answer is and help them make a decision are the things that I enjoy the most.
Q: How is technology changing the work of CPAs?
A: As a firm we're spending time with [artificial intelligence], how we can use bots in ways to automate processes. … It's the Baker Tilly motto, "Now, for tomorrow." Our CEO is very strong on what can we do now that's going to help our clients in the future. We spend so much time auditing prior numbers but maybe those prior numbers have trends or there are things we could quickly give them metrics on to help them. We want to help them do better.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.